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The Legend of Bagger Vance

The Legend of Bagger Vance”, was a 2000 movie directed by Robert Redford, set in the Depression era. Hardy Greaves is an old man who collapses on a golf course and has a look back at his life. He fondly remembers a golf tournament he watched among two famous golfers, Water Hagen and Bobby Jones, and a lesser-known local man, Runnulph Junuh. Junuh had been an excellent golfer in his own right, a local hero of sorts, until he went away to World War I and suffers posttraumatic stress syndrome as a result.

On the home front, Junuh's girlfriend who he had been dating before he left for the war, Adele Invergordon, inherits a golf course, when her father kills himself due to his financial ruin. Determined to get the golf course back on its feet, she decides to promote a golf tournament with two very famous golfers, Hagen and Jones. She gets financial banking and sponsors with the condition that she find a local talent as well. She convinces Junuh to play against these two golf professionals. Bagger Vance appears virtually from out of nowhere to become his caddy.

Bagger Vance tells Junuh that he has lost his “authentic swing” and must find it again. Junuh is now an alcoholic, since coming back from the war. This movie is more about life than golf. Its setting is, indeed, on a golf course, but Bagger Vance’s conversations with Junuh speak to much more than simply a golf game. Throughout the tournament, Bagger Vance gives Junuh advice on golf and life. Finally, at the end of the tournament, Junuh has captured what he had lost, he had found his “authentic swing” again, and Bagger Vance disappeared as mysteriously as he first came. The tournament ends in a tie.

Common criticism of this movie is the inaccurate portrayal of the black man in the white man’s world of golf in that era. However, the sentimentality of the movie and the spirituality of the movie is the main focus, and Redford appears to have cast Smith perhaps more as an actor than as a black man. The quiet morality of the movie makes it an excellent choice for a family movie.

The actors in this film include:

Will Smith                   Bagger Vance

Matt Damon                Runnulph Junuh

Charlize Theron           Adele Invergordon

Bruce McGill               Walter Hagen

Joel Gretsch                Bobby Jones

J. Michael Moncrief     Hardy Greaves

Jack Lemmon              old Hardy Greaves, narrator

Lane Smith                  Grantland Rice

 Attrition: Provides a great synopsis of the movie and points out that the movie certainly is not about the game of golf, even though it does, indeed, take place on a golf course. The writer sets up the story, including the background information on Rannulph Junuh’s girlfriend, Adele, and her ownership of the golf club, which leads to the reason behind Junuh’s return to the golf course. Though the critic himself is not a golfer, he does point out that his father, an avid golfer, gave a passing grade to the believability of the golfers in the film.

 Movie Habit: Marty Mapes sets up his critique of the film by mentioning that he had spoken to Redford twice the past week. He goes on to introduce us to the film as magical and mystical and beautifully set. Mapes goes into lengthy explanation of the film, starting with Hardy Greaves, played by Jack Lemmon, who collapses on the golf course and has a flashback to a time when he was younger and watched the golf tournament played by Walter Hagan and Bobby Jones, as well as the local hero, Junuh. Mapes points out the racist inaccuracy of the film as Bagger Vance would not have been treated quite so respectfully as he was in the film, and Mapes thinks it feels a bit like rewriting history. He finishes his critique by pointing out that the metaphor of golf being like life is a stretch, but the film is worth watching…once.

  Christian Answers: Focuses primarily on the Christian values that are prevalent in the film. There is a brief synopsis of the film with some Christian comments such as which scenes may be inappropriate for younger viewers. He points out that he has heard arguments against this film, claiming that it encompasses some new religious movement, but this critic disagrees. He believes this film has strong Christian morals and likens the character of Bagger Vance to Junuh’s “guardian angel.”

  Dr. Putt: Critiques the golf game of the movie. This site is not a movie critic site, but is, instead, a golf site. However, Dr. Putt, because of the strong golf theme of the movie, feels compelled, and has been encouraged by his readers, to offer some criticism of the movie. Thus, he offers first a brief summary of the movie and points out that many critics did not like the movie because of the racial inaccuracies. However, he contends that, because the movie is about an old man, Harvey Greaves, looking back on his life, possibly racial inequalities and racial hatred would have been erased from his mind, or, at the very least, would not have come to the forefront of his memory. As for the golf game of the actors, he commends Joel Gretsch’s portrayal of Bobby Jones and Bruce McGill’s portrayal of Walter Hagan. He says that their swing accurately matched those of the men they were imitating. However, he was disappointed to say that Matt Damon’s swing fell quite short, despite Tim Moss’s efforts. He never did find his own “authentic swing.”

  Law Buzz: Considers itself the “story behind the movies.” Indeed, it is a very thorough site for reference to this movie. However, this site is very much a Hindu site, and it likens the character of Junuh to the fictionalized Arjuna, one of the heroes of the Hindu epic Mah?bh?rata. This site has a list of “story chapter links” to click through, most relate the movie to Hindu writings, primarily the Bhagavad-Gita.

  Post Gazette: Compares this film to other films directed by or starring Robert Redford. The writer begins with “The Natural,” a film by Barry Levinson, which starred Robert Redford, and says that the themes are very similar. He continues by making comparisons with “The Quiz Show,” and “A River Runs Through It.” This writer finds the film, though, too mystical, and he attributes this to the fact that the movie is seen through the eyes of Harvey, the man who looks back on his life, that which is the movie. 


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